After nearly a week of delays, the United States Congress has passed legislation renewing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act. House of Representatives bill 5986 and Senate bill 3326 both passed on August 2 and will serve to extend U.S. import sanctions on Burma for another year.
For months now, we have encouraged activists like you to contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to support the renewal of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA). This legislation became all the more crucial following the Obama Administrations announcement in July that the U.S. had begun the process of easing restrictions on investment in Burma. The renewal of the BFDA allows the United States to keep some pressure on the Burmese government as violence continues against ethnic nationals and the progress toward democracy is nascent.
While the passage of the bill marks an important achievement, President Obama still maintains the right to waive the import ban should the U.S. feel that the Burmese government has made sufficient progress toward resolving tensions with the ethnic minority states, inclusive and sustainable democratic reforms and respect for human rights. The Obama administration’s ability to waive key provisions of the bill will be something that we continue to track moving forward.
Last week, the vote was delayed by several Senators who had placed “holds” on the bill, preventing the import ban from being passed through a special expedited process before it expired on July 28. Adding to the pressure, the August recess was fast approaching. Had Congress failed to renew the import ban by the end of this week, it would have meant pushing the vote back until after Labor Day.
Human rights groups have continued to remind the U.S. government about the importance of continued pressure on Burma as violence against ethnic nationals continues in places like Kachin and Arakan States.
Thank you to all those who have taken action to ensure that these crucial sanctions can remain in place.